The aim of this chapter is to convey a beautiful, hope-inspiring promise to the believers while they were still in Mecca before the migration to Medina. This was at a time when the believers were a small group of people whom the tyrants from the tribe of Quraysh oppressed, persecuted, and behaved arrogantly towards. Those were the days of acute hardship, difficulty, and trial for the believers. The promise that this chapter aimed to convey to the believers in Mecca was that God would bestow favors on them, make them leaders and heirs, strengthen them, and grant them power while the oppressive tyrants from their people would witness from them that which they feared.
Thus, in this chapter God narrates to the persecuted Meccan believers a portion of the story of Moses and the Pharaoh, in that He created Moses at a time when the Pharaoh was at the apogee of his power. The Pharaoh used to behave arrogantly towards the Children of Israel, persecuting them. This involved slaughtering their sons while sparing their daughters. Thus He had Moses raised and nurtured in the very lap of the enemy till he grew up and attained maturity, which is when He rescued him and brought him out from the midst of the Pharaoh and his people towards Midian. Thereafter He returned Moses to them as a messenger from Himself coupled with clear authority up until the time when He drowned Pharaoh and his army altogether, rendering the Children of Israel heirs. Additionally, He sent the Torah to Moses as guidance, endowed with insight for the believers.
Thus the destiny of the persecuted believers would follow this course, and in this, there was a promise for the believers in Mecca of dominance, honor, integrity, and authority, and a promise to the Prophet of an ultimate successful return.
Thereafter God shifts from the story of Moses and the Pharaoh, and proceeds to explain that it is imperative in God’s wisdom that He should reveal a book from Himself that calls to the truth. Thereafter He mentions the unbelievers’ vilifying contention regarding the Qur’an’s call by quoting their words: Why is he not given the like of what was given to Moses? (28:48) following them up with a rejoinder from Himself. He also mentions their excuse for not believing in the Qur’an’s call by quoting what they said: If we follow the guidance with you, we shall be carried off from our country (28: 57) following it up with a rejoinder (from Himself). Finally, the narrative contains a warning in the form of the story of Korah and his humiliating destruction, which took place by him being swallowed up.
This chapter is of Meccan provenance as attested to by the context of its verses. Verses 1-14 is a section from the story of Moses and the Pharaoh from the day Moses was born till he reached maturity.